Humanists and Bahá’ís raise alarm on ongoing persecution to UN

19 September, 2023

Humanists UK and the UK Bahá’í Community delivered a joint statement to the UN Human Rights Council to raise concerns about those under arbitrary detention because of their religion or belief. Addressing the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the statement highlighted the rise in discriminatory trends of persecution during the Covid-19 pandemic. Humanists UK and the UK Bahá’í Community are deeply concerned that this trend has continued into recent months.

The intervention was delivered via video by Humanists UK Policy and Campaigns Officer Laura Newlyn. She stated:

‘Neither non-religious beliefs nor the Bahá’í faith are recognised by the Iranian authorities and we remain alarmed by the increase in the already longstanding persecution of the non-religious and the Bahá’ís since the pandemic. Blogger and photojournalist Soheil Arabi was reportedly detained in January as part of a crackdown on protests. He’d previously had a death sentence commuted to seven and a half years’ imprisonment for alleged ‘blasphemy’. Mahvash Sabet, Fariba Kamalabadi, and Afif Naeimi, who each sat on a Bahá’í leadership committee, and have already served ten years in harsh prison conditions, have all been re-imprisoned between August 2022 and February this year. Bahá’í offices report that Ms Sabet and Mr Naeimi are both gravely ill and doctors have provided evidence that they are unfit to be detained.’

The intervention also raised the case of the 11 Bahá’ís arbitrarily detained by Houthi gunmen since May after a violent raid on a peaceful Bahá’í gathering in Yemen. Seventeen Bahá’ís were forcibly disappeared, but only six have been released.


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

Read the full intervention.

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